Last June, a number of scholarly and community organizations, led by New Mexico Highlands University and including Historypin, Photogrammer, and the Taos Public Library, gathered in Las Vegas, New Mexico, thanks to a planning grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The participants were exploring the possibility of collaborative, community-based research around Farm Security Administration photos from the 1930s and 1940s covering a large part of the United State. The project was coined New Deal Then and Now, and the gathering was an eye-opening experience to all involved about the complexities of historical narrative.
Understanding the historical context of how knowledge was collected in a colonial context, as well as the imperative of addressing historic trauma, it is clear that storytelling and photography can function to create openings for reimagining community history and healing.
Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez just published an essay about the research and the variety of ways communities preserve and celebrate their history, and the ways in which outsiders have often devalued, appropriated, stolen or tried to erase that same history. He describes ways that social media is changing our approach to community history, and envisions ways in which we might begin to recognize the colonial past of knowledge creation and find new ways of sharing that truly empowers local communities.